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Eur J Public Health. 2019 Apr 1. pii: ckz050. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckz050. [Epub ahead of print]

Re-examining access points to the different levels of health care: a cross-sectional series in Austria.

Author information

1
Kathryn Hoffmann, MD, MPH, Department of General Practice and Family Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15/I, Vienna, Austria.
2
Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA USA.
3
Elena Jirovsky, PhD, Department of General Practice and Family Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15/I, Vienna, Austria.
4
Thomas E. Dorner, MD, MPH, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15/I, Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

There is high variation in service utilization behaviour, health equity and outcomes among countries based upon the organization of access to primary and secondary care levels. Austria is a country with universal health coverage and access without clear delineation between access to primary and secondary care. The aim of this study was to investigate development of access points to the Austrian system over time and subsequent utilization.

METHODS:

The databases used were the Austrian Health Interview Surveys 2006/2007 and 2014, including 15 747 and 15 771 persons, respectively. Descriptive analysis of health services utilization behaviour and demographic factors were conducted. Logistic regression models were applied. Furthermore, differences between the two periods are shown.

RESULT:

Utilization of all services assessed was high in 2014 when compared to 2006/2007. Between these periods, a 6-7% increase in use of secondary care services was found. There was a 10.8% increase in access to specialist care services and 4.1% increase in hospital outpatient visits, each without prior General Practitioner (GP) visits. The largest increases were found in those groups that had previously demonstrated the lowest utilization behaviour of accessing specialist consultations and consultations without a prior GP visit.

CONCLUSION:

Despite the lack of change to the health care system or access to care, there was an increase in utilization of secondary care services, with a lower percentage of patients seeking direct GP consultation. This is concerning for systems development, cost containment and quality of care, as it demonstrates a possible trend shifting away from primary care as initial access point.

PMID:
30938408
DOI:
10.1093/eurpub/ckz050

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